This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to the international team which invented the world’s smallest machine . The three scientists, namely Jean-Pierre Sauvage (France), Sir Fraser Stoddart (Great Britain), and Bernard “Ben” Feringa (Netherlands) will split the $931,000 (8 million Swedish Kronaprize) three ways. The trio began their research back in 1983, and have been able to invent molecular machines that have been tipped to be leading breakthroughs in the field of new materials and energy storage devices.
The molecular machines are also called nanomachines, and are about 1,000 times smaller than a single strand of hair. In a statement, the awarding authority Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences describe the innovation, “They have developed molecules with controllable movements, which can perform a task when energy is added.”
In 1983, Sauvage was the first one to make a breakthrough in the development of tiny machines when he successfully linked two ring-shaped molecules and created a chai. Eight years later, in 1991 Stoddart was able to create a called rotaxane, which was a dumbbell-shaped molecule entailing a ring around its middle. The third scientist Feringa, in 1999, built on this and became the first person to create a molecular motor, which converted the concept into a fully functional machine. The scientific potential of the minuscule motor can be judged by the fact that it has been used to rotate a glass cylinder 10,000 times bigger than its own size.
The jury said when announcing the winners, “The molecular motor is at the same stage as the electric motor was in the 1830s, when scientists displayed various spinning cranks and wheels, unaware that they would lead to electric trains, washing machines, fans and food processors.”
These are truly exciting times for the world’s technology, and this invention in particular is a herald of great breakthroughs to come in the near future.